Sept. 6, 2002 – A federal grand jury on St. Croix has handed up an indictment of two current Narcotics Strike Force agents, a former agent and a Bureau of Corrections officer on a variety of charges related to drug trafficking.
U.S. Attorney David Nissman announced the indictments Friday afternoon and said they were returned by the grand jury on Thursday. Those indicted and the charges against them are:
– Current St. Croix Narcotics Strike Force agents George Osborne and Jay Watson and former St. Croix agent Esbond DeGrasse — federal offenses including conspiracy to commit and extortion and robbery under color of law, conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense, plus territorial charges of racketeering and destruction of property.
– Bureau of Corrections officer Antonio Petersen — one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
According to a release from Nissman's office, the indictment alleges that from 1996 through 2000, the defendants "among other things, unlawfully used their positions as law-enforcement officers and Narcotics Strike Force agents for profit and gain by obtaining money from drug dealers or individuals whom the defendants understood to be drug dealers."
The defendants did this, the indictment states, by depriving the dealers or supposed dealers "of their civil rights, robbing them of their drug inventory and money, extorting money and drugs from them to avoid prosecution, using drug dealers to sell unlawfully obtained drugs, and misusing and destroying government property to further their illegal activities."
The release said the investigation that led to the indictment was initiated "through a request from the Virgin Islands Police Department" and was conducted "through the joint efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Virgin Islands Police Department and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. The case, Nissman said, is an example of how "local and federal agencies can work cooperatively to serve the best interests of justice."
Nissman noted that "the public has made complaints about corruption in the Narcotics Strike Force for many years, and many of those complaints have been acted upon."
The penalty guidelines for the various charges are:
– Conspiracy to commit and extortion and robbery under color of law — a maximum of 20 years in prison, and a maximum $250,000 fine.
– Conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances — a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison, and a maximum $2 million fine.
– Carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense — a mandatory five years in prison.
– Racketeering (V.I. law) — a maximum of 15 years in prison, and a maximum $500,000 fine.
– Destruction of property (V.I. law) – a maximum of one year in prison, and a maximum $200 fine.
In the release, Nissman asked that residents with information about public corruption in any government institution contact the FBI by calling 777-3363.
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